There are few chores as tedious and messy as cleaning paintbrushes. But the results of doing the job right are brushes that will last a lifetime.

Here's how to make brush cleaning easier and much less messy:

Start by cutting a slit in the plastic lid of an empty coffee can. Bore a small hole through the paintbrush handle, just above the metal ferrule.

Push the brush handle up through the slit in the lid and insert a 4- to 6-inch-long piece of wire coat hanger through the hole in the handle.

Now pour into the can either water (for cleaning latex paint) or mineral spirits (oil-based paint). Make sure the bristles and not the ferrule are immersed and that the tips of the bristles are at least half an inch above the bottom of the can. (If the brush rests on the bottom, the bristles will become permanently bent.)

Soak the brush for at least two hours. Rake the bristles clean with a brush comb, then hang up the brush until it's dry. Before storing the brush, wrap the bristles in either paper towels or brown paper cut from a grocery sack.


A sharp, fine-tooth handsaw is ideal for cutting narrow pieces of wood, such as molding, floor boards and lattice--except when you need to trim off just a tiny bit.

Tension from the blade often snaps off the waste piece, leaving the saw with little or no support and resulting in sloppy, uneven cuts.

The next time you need to trim less than half an inch, try this technique:

Clamp the molding to a wide, thick scrap board; make sure the scrap extends past the end of the molding. Then, using smooth, straight strokes, cut through the molding and partially into the scrap board.

The scrap provides rigid support for the molding and helps prevent the waste piece from prematurely breaking off. Don't force the saw on the push stroke, or the blade will flex and pop off the waste piece.


Speed is vital for most carpenters, particularly framers. Their work has to be accurate, but those wood-frame walls have to go up quickly if a house or an addition is going to come in on budget.

Here's an old shortcut they've developed that will save you time:

First, cut the top and bottom wall plates and all the wall studs to length. Lay the two plates side by side with their ends flush. Then use a framing square to mark the stud locations across both the top and bottom plates at the same time.

Studs typically are spaced 16 inches on center.

Hold the blade of the square (the wider, longer leg) against the edge of the wall plate so that the tongue (the shorter, narrower leg) lies across the top surface. The tongue is 1 1/2-inches wide, the exact thickness of a 2-by wall stud.

Draw pencil lines along both edges of the tongue, then mark an "X" to identify the outline as a stud location.

Now lay out the wall on the floor with the studs placed in position between the top and bottom plates. Nail through the plates and into the ends of the studs, and lift the wall up into position.

Reprinted from the pages of Today's Homeowner magazine. To receive more expert advice on improving your home, call (800) 456-6369 or visit the Web site at http://www.todayshomeowner.com

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